IAF Handbook Covers
The IAF Handbooks

The IAF Handbook of Group Facilitation:

Best Practices from the Leading Organization in Facilitation

Sandor Schuman, Editor

IAF Handbook Covers
The IAF Handbooks

Table of Contents - CDBook

Group Facilitation: A Research and Applications Journal

Issue Number 1, Winter 1999


Facilitation Research - Broadening Organizational Thinking

By Mark A. Fuller


Evaluating the Strengths and Weaknesses of Group Decision-Making Processes: A Competing Values Approach

Bradley E. Wright and John Rohrbaugh

Ideally, meeting evaluations should enable a facilitator to diagnose a group's strengths and weaknesses and select appropriate interventions to help the group improve it's effectiveness. The authors critique various approaches to the evaluation of group decision making and suggest that evaluations should focus on processes rather than outcomes, address the group rather than individual roles and behaviors, and view the group in organizational context rather than in isolation. Building on the Competing Values Approach (CVA) to organizational analysis, they describe four perspectives on group decision processes: empirical, rational, political, and consensual. They present a case in which a validated evaluation instrument, based on the CVA, was used to gain insight into the decision-making processes of an executive team.

Reconsidering Brainstorming
Paul A. Mongeau and Mary Claire Morr

Brainstorming is reviewed in face-to-face and electronic contexts. Comparing brainstorming as it was initially defined to how it has been studied reveals several important differences. The accumulated research evidence indicates that face-to-face brainstorming groups produce fewer ideas than nominal groups (i.e., individuals who generate ideas without interacting with other ideators). More recent research indicates that electronic brainstorming groups generate more ideas than do nominal groups. Increasing group size inhibits the performance of face-to-face brainstorming yet facilitates the performance of electronic brainstorming. Process blocking and evaluation apprehension appear to provide the fullest explanation of this phenomenon. Suggestions are made for facilitators who use brainstorming and for future research.

Cultivating Collective Consciousness with Transcendent Self-Presence: A Guided Dialogue Method

Jean Watts, Pat Miller, and John Kloepfer

Group Facilitators cultivate collective consciousness in a group by using a dialogue method of conversation that reconciles the inner life of mind and spirit of the participant's with their outer world of action and outcome. This requires two modes of self-reflection: introspection and transcendent self-presence. The Guided Dialogue Method is a formation process that guides participants through a progression of four interacting, but distinct levels of self-reflection: Objective -- getting the participants' attention by engaging the senses, Reflective -- eliciting the participants' imagination and emotional responses, Interpretive -- catalyzing the sharing of lived experiences and decisions, and Maieutic -- eliciting a sense of wonder and openness to the transcendent dimension of life. The article includes both the theory and a practical walk-through model.

Group Facilitation in a Networked World

Catherine M. Beise, Fred Niederman, and Peggy M. Beranek

Group support systems (GSS), initially developed to support problem- solving groups in face-to-face meeting settings, are extending their capabilities to support meeting participants separated geographically and temporally, as a result of advances in networking systems and application software. Facilitation is viewed as an important factor in the success of face-to-face GSS meetings. This article explores the role of the meeting facilitator in assisting distributed group meetings supported by various technologies. Interviews with 34 practicing facilitators reveal their concerns and expectations regarding benefits and limitations of distributed GSS (DGSS). The interview results offer useful insights to DGSS designers, researchers, and practitioners. The facilitators' concerns include potential loss of non-verbal signals in addressing group process issues such as participation and conflict resolution, while they perceive that DGSS can offer benefits such as focusing and structuring. The facilitator's role is likely to continue to include serving as a change agent, while evolving from individual meeting manager to that of project manager, participant trainer, and technology enabler. Traditional facilitators will likely have to increase their skill and comfort with information technology, as well as adjust and adapt to new tools and methods for accomplishing their traditional tasks.

Book Reviews:

The Facilitator's Guide to Participatory Decision Making
By Sam Kaner with Lenny Lind, Catherine Toldi, Sarah Fisk and Duane Berger

Reviewed by Lynda Lieberman Baker

The Skilled Facilitator:
Practical Wisdom for Developing Effective Groups
By Roger Schwarz

Reviewed by Richard Orth

Managers as Facilitators:
A Practical Guide to Getting Work Done in a Changing Workplace
By Richard G. Weaver and John D. Farrell

Reviewed by: Fred Niederman

Issue Number 2, Winter 2000


Readying Facilitation for the 21st Century

By Mark A. Fuller


Best Practices in Facilitating Virtual Meetings:
Some Notes From Initial Experience

By Daniel D. Mittleman, Robert O. Briggs and Jay F. Nunamaker, Jr.

Facilitating virtual teams - teams separated by time or distance - is a practice only recently developed. With new collaboration technologies, it is now possible to lead projects where team members collaborate using only technology links for communication. As these technologies are new, little information exists to guide facilitators as to best practices for conducting virtual facilitation. This article describes virtual facilitation environments and reports on lessons learned from one set of academic studies that investigated the practice of same-time and different-time virtual facilitation. Best practices are derived from these lessons and presented here as well.

Building Trust Among Members of a Work Team:
One Facilitator's Experiences

By Stephen B. King

This article describes the experiences of a facilitator who was involved with a six-person team of employees at Penn State University Library. Various interactions and experiences the facilitator had with the team are detailed. Early in the process, interpersonal trust, communication, and relationship emerged as important issues among team members. Several questionnaires were used to collect information, provide feedback to the group, and stimulate discussions. A variety of trust-building interventions, such as team-building and facilitated discussions, were implemented to improve the effectiveness of the team. A follow-up survey showed an improvement in several critical dimensions related to trust. This article describes the facilitation experience and lessons that were learned.

Facilitator Competencies

By Virginia Pierce, Dennis Cheesebrow and Linda Mathews Braun

The International Association of Facilitators and the Institute of Cultural Affairs have explored the question of facilitator competencies and skills for several years. One of the new insights of progressive organizations is the value of participatory processes to address new needs for analysis, decision-making, and action in today's environment of fast, complex change and global competition. Facilitation is increasingly being used as a participatory tool for getting results in group dialogue, analysis, decision-making, and planning. Competency in the design and delivery of participatory processes is the domain of the facilitation profession. This article presents six areas of facilitator competencies and the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary to demonstrate those competencies. It also suggests a number of areas where this model of facilitator competencies can be applied.

Comments on Facilitator Competencies

Jean-Anne Kirk, Roger M. Schwarz, Marybeth Tahar, and Michael Wilkinson


Process Time for Project Teams
Edward S. Ruete

Book Reviews

Dialogue: Rediscover the Transforming Power of Conversation
By Linda Ellinor and Glenna Gerard

Reviewed by Cassandra Patrovani-Smith

Handbook of Team Design
By Peter H. Jones

Reviewed by Gerald Kail

The Complete Guide to Facilitation: Enabling Groups to Succeed
By Tom Justice and David Jamison

Reviewed by Lynda Lieberman Baker

Issue Number 3, Spring 2001,
Special Issue on Group Development


A Superlative Task
Sandor Schuman

Introduction to the Special Issue on Group Development

Sandor Schuman


Group Newcomers: From Disruption to Innovation

Marie A. Cini

One of the ways that groups change over time is through the introduction of newcomers. Until recently, group research has primarily focused on the attempts of the existing group to socialize the newcomer, whereas the effect of the newcomer on the group has been relatively less explored. However, research on newcomer influence suggests that newcomers can influence the group under certain conditions. Research on the power of the (numerical) minority in groups has also uncovered some intriguing findings regarding the positive effects a newcomer can have on a group. For groups seeking to be more innovative and effective, newcomers may be an overlooked source of innovation. Group facilitators can prepare the group and the newcomer to maximize the potential of newcomer contributions.

Group Development: A Review of the Literature and a Commentary on Future Research Directions

George Smith

The use of groups, and more specifically teams, in organizations has been on the rise during the past decade. While many benefits have been attributed to these organizational arrangements, few researchers and practitioners have stepped back to look at the history and research underlying many of the models that are used to understand and anticipate group/team development. This paper takes a step in that direction as it reviews many of the developmental models, their roots and patterns.

A Critical View of Facilitating Labor-Management Collaboration

Grant T. Savage and Chadwick B. Hilton

Labor-management group facilitation is a complex but increasingly necessary skill. Facilitators need both clear practice guidelines and an understanding of why those guidelines are legitimate. To meet these needs, this paper first provides a descriptive (structural-functional) framework for understanding the facilitator’s role and the communicative practices on which it is based. A critique of this framework is then proposed using Habermas’ theory of communicative action. From this theoretical critique, group decision making is viewed as both a negotiative and a dialogical process, entailing an expanded appreciation of the facilitator’s role. In congruence with this theoretical stance, a set of directives for facilitating consensual decision making is proposed. A combined case and discourse analysis of two labor-management groups’ decision-making processes illustrates the utility and implications of these directives.

Facilitating Team Development: A View from the Field

John E. Jones and William L. Bearley

The purposes of this paper are to describe a guidance model for assisting groups of people to generate the conditions of teamwork and to describe the types of interventions that we have made in facilitating team development in a wide array of groups internationally. We will lay out the groundwork by commenting on differences between teams and groups and the appropriateness of team building. Group Facilitation: A Research and Applications Journal Volume 3 Spring 2001 Abstracts

Book Reviews

The Dance of Change: The Challenges to Sustaining Momentum in Learning Organizations by Peter Senge, Art Kleiner, Charlotte Roberts, Richard Ross, George Roth and Bryan Smith

Reviewed by Patricia R. Tuecke

The Logic of Failure: Why Things Go Wrong and What We Can Do To Make Them Right by Dietrich Dorner

Reviewed by Nancy S. Hewison

Success with Soul
by Doris Pozzi and Stephen Williams

Reviewed by Judy Robb

Issue Number 4, Summer 2002


Believe in Doubt
Sandor P. Schuman


Sandor P. Schuman


Contributions of Caucusing and Pre-Caucusing to Mediation
Gregorio Billikopf-Encina

Drawing on his work as a researcher and practicing mediator in interpersonal organizational conflict, the author argues that pre-caucusing a separate meeting between the mediator and each of the stakeholders before they are ever brought together into a joint session can not only overcome many of the negatives often associated with caucusing, but has the potential of becoming a pillar of conflict management. This is especially so when pre-caucusing is integrated into a transformative mediation framework. Pre-caucusing affords stakeholders the opportunity to vent and be heard at a critical time in the mediation process, when it can reduce defensiveness and increase creativity. Once in the joint session, stakeholders communicate with each other with less mediator interference.

Coherence in Face-to-Face Electronic Meetings: A Hidden Factor in Facilitation Success
S. Pak Yoong and R. Brent Gallupe

Planning and designing are considered essential to the successful facilitation of face-to-face electronic meetings. However, relatively little is known about how to perform these pre-meeting activities. To illustrate how the planning and design of face-to-face electronic meetings might be improved, this paper uses the concept of coherence in meeting processes. A grounded action research study illustrates how new electronic meeting facilitators use two types of coherence, internal and external, in planning and designing their initial electronic meetings. Implications for meeting researchers and practitioners are considered.

Finding Clarity in the Midst of Conflict: Facilitating Dialogue and Skillful Discussion Using a Model from the Quaker Tradition

Malcom C. Burson

Consultants and facilitators increasingly use formal approaches to dialogue as a means to build the capacity of groups to engage at deeper levels of collective understanding. For example, the contributors to The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook propose the application of dialogue techniques to the practice fields of "mental models" and "team learning" as ways to build the skills of inquiry and reflection into the day-to-day activities of groups of all kinds. Combining the work of William Isaacs and the Dialogue Project at MIT with a model from the Quaker tradition, this paper suggests a tool for skillful discussion that can allow a group to deal with conflict by stepping back into a shared silence that generates critical questions, and describes a case example of its use.

Learning Organizations:
A Primer for Group Facilitators

Kai R. T. Larsen, Claire McInerney, Corinne Nyquist, Donna L. Silsbee and Aldo A. Zagonel

Learning organizations are able to grow and successfully adapt to changing environments, and group facilitators have a key role as change agents in the process. This paper draws heavily from the work of Peter M. Senge (1990a, 1990b, 1994, 1999), who describes learning organizations as consisting of four core disciplines: personal mastery, mental models, team learning and shared vision. In addition, Senge introduced a fifth concept of systems thinking. The work of several other management scientists is discussed in relation to the learning organization attributes identified by Senge, and the role of facilitators in creating organizational change is highlighted.

Participatory Rural Appraisal: A Brief Introduction

Lance Robinson

Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) is an approach to facilitating community development whose family of techniques such as Venn diagrams, matrix ranking, and matrix scoring rely heavily on visualization and diagramming. However, what distinguishes PRA more than any of its techniques is its emphasis on participation. PRA practitioners generally believe that only when participants are in full control of needs assessment, goal-setting, planning, policy-making, implementation, and evaluation can a process be considered fully participatory. PRA, which emerged first in the global South, is increasingly being used in developed countries, and it is in this commitment to participation that PRA has the most to offer facilitators practicing in the North. Facilitators using any approach are encouraged to ask themselves reflective questions such as, Are my actions and methods as a facilitator contributing to the ability of the participants to take control?


Essays on Consensus

Freeman Marvin and John Butcher

Book Reviews 

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser;
The Work of Writing: Insights and Strategies for Academics and Professionals by Elizabeth Rankin; and
Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace by Joseph Williams

Reviewed by Julianna Gustafson

Issue Number 5, Spring 2003,
Special Issue on Information Technology for Groups


Information Technology for Groups
Sandor P. Schuman


Voting Before Discussing: Electronic Voting as Social Interaction

Brian Whitworth and Robert J. McQueen

A field study is presented which used voting before discussing (VBD) as a means of social influence and communication in a computer supported group interaction, rather than using voting as the final stage in a rational decision making process. The approach is based on a cognitive, three-process model of group interaction, which proposes that group cohesion and agreement arise primarily from normative rather than informational or personal influence. This initial investigation found that the VBD technique can result in higher agreement of group members with the decisions of the group, higher satisfaction with the computer-mediated interaction, higher satisfaction with group performance, and higher group awareness. The voting before discussion method may be useful in situations where agreement is an important group output, or where interpersonal conflict is creating problems in meetings.

Multiple Roles of Online Facilitation: An Example of Any-Time, Any-Place Meetings

Nandhini Rangarajan and John Rohrbaugh

Facilitating meetings of virtual teams—with members who are geographically dispersed and who often communicate electronically with considerable time lags between messages—is a recent specialization. This article describes eight facilitator roles that can lead to the improved effectiveness of these “any time, any place” (ATAP) meetings. Evidence from a recent evaluation study of three ATAP meetings suggested that virtual team members especially appreciated the value added by a facilitator to their meeting process. KEY WORDS online facilitation, virtual teams, asynchronous meetings, distributed group facilitation, virtual meetings, electronic meeting system, any-time, any-place meetings

Facilitation Through Online Scripting

Jennifer H. Landau, Harry Chesley, Suzana Seban, Lili Cheng and Shelly Farnham

As business interactions go online, so do facilitation and agenda design. Most electronic meeting system (EMS) applications replicate the contemporary meeting paradigm, including the presence of a facilitator. Addressing both online and self-managed work, the Microsoft Lead Line prototype uses standard browser technology and scripting to guide same-time interaction in a text chat environment. Facilitators design process scripts for groups of three to seven participants. Together these design elements make it possible to simultaneously facilitate an infinite number of small groups in a meaningful task. Lead Line offers ease of user access, balance of structure and creativity, and clarity of group goals and roles.

The Journey of Meaning at Work

John L. Epps

The quest for meaning at work is a topic that occupies the attention of a growing number of writers. It is a familiar quest recognized by most people who are employed, whatever their profession. As facilitators we strive to find meaning in our own profession, and like everyone else at work, we need ways to do so. We also see the question arise among our clients. Hardly ever are we retained to address this question of meaning, but it is central in almost every organization we serve. Being clear about authentic approaches to the journey of finding meaning at work may provide us insights for addressing it effectively. By “meaning at work” we mean the worthwhileness of an undertaking, a sense of importance in a larger framework.

Book Reviews

Requirements by Collaboration: Workshops for Defining Needs by Ellen Gottesdiener

Reviewed by Eileen Dowse

Serious Play: How the World's Best Companies Simulate to Innovate
Michael Schrage

Reviewed by John Lesko

Principles of Facilitation: The Purpose and Potential of Leading Group Process by David Sibbet

Reviewed by Tom Sechrest

The IAF Handbook of Group Facilitation

The Architecture of Participation

Patricia Tuecke

Exhibit 5.1: Room Arrangements and Their Effects on Participation

Exhibit 5.2: Meeting Room Specifications

Exhibit 5.3: A Wall Created from a Transportable Easel and a Large Sheet of Rigid Board

Promoting Mutual Understanding for Effective Collaboration in Cross-Functional Groups with Multiple Stakeholders

Sam Kaner

Exhibit 8.1: Student Discipline Committee

Exhibit 8.2: The Pseudo-Solution

Exhibit 8.3: Frames of Reference

Exhibit 8.4: Divergent and Convergent Thinking

Exhibit 8.5: Diamond of Participatory Decision Making

Exhibit 8.6: “No Listening” in the Groan Zone

Exhibit 8.7: Effective Listening

Exhibit 8.8: The Diamond Necklace

Exhibit 8.9: A Framework for Action

Graphic Facilitation: The Art of Drawing Out the Best in People

David Sibbet

Exhibit 10.1: The “What Are Sustainable Food Systems?” Mural

Exhibit 10.2: Grove Facilitation Model Supporting Team Performance

Facilitation of the Future: How Virtual Meetings Are Changing the Work of the Facilitator

Lori Bradley, Michael Beyerlein

Exhibit 18.1: Virtual Meeting Setup Checklist

Exhibit 18.2: Premeeting with Meeting Owner

Quality Without a Name

Reinhard Kuchenmüller, Marianne Stifel

This chapter, which makes extensive use of color graphics, is reproduced in its entirety.

Facilitator Core Competencies as Defined by the International Association of Facilitators

Lynda Lieberman Baker, Cameron Fraser

Appendix 26a: IAF Facilitator Core Competencies

How to Build Your Expertise in Facilitation

Kristin J. Arnold

Appendix 28a: Survey of Group Facilitators: How to Build Your Expertise

The IAF Handbook of Group Facilitation:

Best Practices from the Leading Organization in Facilitation

Sandor Schuman, Editor

ISBN: 078797160X

Hardcover 664 pp + CD-ROM; 2005

Jossey-Bass, An Imprint of John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated